Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Revivalist Spirits Experience

The summer is waning, but we’re still entrenched in all its sunny glory. In these warmer climes (and sometimes when there’s a chill in the air) when we want something crisp and invigorating, with a little kick, we reach for a bottle of gin, and hope many of you do the same. There has been a major surge in the spirit’s popularity and the byproduct of that surge is a rise in small, craft production. Which means more opportunities for us to try something new and great! Recently we had the chance to taste the gins of a small producer, not available outside of their home state of Pennsylvania (save for a few select retailers and restaurants in nearby states like your friendly neighborhood Bounty Hunter!) We took little time to reach out to the distillery and ask a few questions and gain some insight into their new venture.

Brandywine Branch Distillers is in Elverson, PA and was founded by brothers Don and Scott Avellino just a couple of years ago. They purchased an eight acre farm in 2014 and they began transforming its old, run down, stone barn into a distillery in 2015. The barn dates to the 19th century and was part of a much larger farm. Known locally as “the hippie barn” for its colorful denizens of the 1960s and 70s era when squatters used it for shelter. The hippies left some colorful psychedelic designs on the beams that the Avellino brothers have been sure to preserve.
Don & Scott decided early in their planning that using the finest quality equipment would be of paramount importance. Their fermentation tanks are built from Douglas Fir by a century-old, local Philadelphia company who have built many of the water towers visible from the New York City skyline. They elected to purchase an alembic still from renowned German manufacturer CARL, who are known for their long family history, quality, and reliability. Choosing an alembic still, most commonly used in brandy distillation, allows a versatility that they might not get from a pot or column still, which is good news for us, as they’ll have the opportunity to experiment and produce a wide array of spirits. Once the renovation was completed they were ready to get to work. They finally fired up the still for the first time in February, 2016.

What has transpired for the brothers has been a fascinating journey. They grew up around machinery and equipment and found their way to the automotive repair business, a rewarding industry, but as Don says, “demanding in a way unlike some other industries; no one is ever happy about spending money to fix their car.” So, they set out to utilize another passion they shared, home brewing, and create a business that could be creative and offer an opportunity to build a brand with products they could be proud of that people would be happy to spend their hard-earned money on. After doing some market research they settled on the distilling business. They knew they wanted to make rye whiskey, in keeping with Pennsylvania heritage, but also realized that producing whiskey takes time and doesn’t generate immediate revenue, so they knew they’d need another spirit to keep the business operational while they lay down their whiskey stocks. Gin was the logical go-to for a spirit they could sell immediately that still showcases artisan craft and handmade production. While seeking to safeguard history, they’re also looking to “redefine how people view gin and attract new spirit lovers to the category.” To this end they’ve created a line of gins with distinct botanical mixes that are based on the seasons. These include a citrus-forward style for spring; a floral, grassy style for summer; warming spices for fall; and a gin finished in red wine barrels that has a kiss of ginger.

It’s our job to be a discerning eye, to look through many lenses at new products and this stuff passes all of the test! Our whole team was really impressed with the gins we tasted. We expect more greatness in the future from this small, family owned project. Cheers!